A colleague once confessed that, during a works outing, she and a few others had assigned animal identities to various individuals in the department. Without too much coaxing, she revealed that I had been labelled a sloth. She didn’t elaborate on the reasons. Probably just as well. Aside from long forgotten childhood role play, this is the only time I can recall being compared to another animal type. Anyway, the tag doesn’t stick. I’m not particularly slow in my movments, I don’t have long arms, and I pay close attention to the length of my nails. My tree climbing efforts are pathetic.
There’s another animal I’m not, and that’s the political variety. At least in the sense of turning myself inside out to make a point. It’s not that I can’t articulate my thoughts and views. It’s more to do with the nature of debate. The walking, talking reference books who spill out their favourite quotes, cite political theorists, regurgitate selected media opinion. Too often an exchange of passionate, yet mutually respectful, arguments fall foul of the need to be right, and it doesn’t take long before a sanctimonious sledgehammer is wielded to crush an honestly expressed walnut of opinion.
So now, like millions of others, I tend to keep my political opinions largely to myself; occasionally sharing them only with those who have learnt the knack of agreeing to disagree.
I saw a clip of Jarvis Cocker recently. He had been invited to appear on BBC Politics Live to talk about Brexit, as he was supporting a second referendum. Perched on one end of the panel, he looked like an exotic exhibit, a celebrity curio. While Toby Young, at the opposite end, had the demeanour of a man poised to berate his neighbour for clipping the hedge and disturbing his Sunday afternoon nap. Jarvis opened his mouth and calmly told it the way he saw it. A pain-faced Toby Young responded with a well rehearsed diatribe in the way the pub know-all is apt to put every egg-sucking grandmother right. It struck me that this is pretty much how ‘common people’ are addressed by those who don’t necessarily know better, or have all the answers.
It’s not the zeal that’s frightening; we live in desperate times, so it’s to be expected. But it’s the arrogance, the contempt, the dismissive tone aimed at those voices that are not in tune. What happened to reason, and gentle persuasion? How does the quest to make a better world so often include turning a blind eye to the very humanity we seek to save?